|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire -- May 13, 2001|
Trinidad KO 5 Joppy|
By Chris Bushnell
Forget the debate over Felix Trinidad's proper ranking on the mythical pound-for-pound list... let's begin discussion of his place in boxing history. Trinidad's brutal destruction of WBA middleweight champion William Joppy was a wake-up call to those few remaining Trinidad-skeptics. Not only did Tito win his fifth world title and improve his record to a perfect 40-0, but he turned in one of his most complete performances to date. Believe it or not, this guy is still getting better.
The big question going into Trinidad's showdown with Joppy was his ability to take a punch from a full-fledged middleweight. Fifteen seconds into their fight, Joppy threw a crisp overhand right that landed on Trinidad's jaw and buckled his back leg. For a brief moment, it looked as though Trinidad's rapid rise through the weight divisions had been a mistake. But that would be the only time that William Joppy's punches would hurt Tito this night.
Joppy has always been a quick starter, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see him follow-up his early right hand with a quick hook and the first of many jabs. These punches also grazed across Trinidad's face, and the fight was on. Joppy wasted no time in showing off his quick hands, jabbing at Trinidad for most of the first round. Joppy wisely mixed in some body punches, and after two full minutes he looked to be on his way to winning the round. But looks can be deceiving.
With a minute left in the opening stanza, the pro-Tito crowd of nearly 18,000 erupted when their man landed his first significant punch of the night. It was a short right cross, and it tagged Joppy as he came up from ducking under a Trinidad jab. Joppy's head swiveled, and in the moment that he froze in place, Trinidad reloaded the right and landed it again. The second right drove a stiff legged Joppy into the ropes and he bounced off into a Trinidad left hook. The combination stung Joppy, who was now holding his hands much lower than in the first part of the round.
Trinidad needed only a few seconds to reset and launch another attack. After a beat, Trinidad led with his left hook and again hit a perfect bullseye. The punch staggered Joppy backwards. If Trinidad had stopped, Joppy would have fallen down... but he didn't. As Joppy reeled back, Trinidad caught him with another flush left hook and a glancing right. Joppy's descent was upgraded from a slow tumble to an immediate collapse, and he hit his head on the bottom rope as he crashed to the floor.
Joppy sat up wide-eyed and dazed. He reached behind himself to grab the top rope, but slipped halfway through his ascent and fell back down onto the seat of his pants. Joppy made it up by 8 and Arthur Mercante Jr. let him continue. Trinidad rushed at him, and landed another stinging hook and overhand right before Joppy clumsily hugged him to kill the final few seconds of the round. 10-8 for Trinidad as the crowd cheered wildly.
Joppy made a nice recovery between rounds, especially considering the fact that his corner didn't bring a stool to the ring with them. Between each round Joppy chose to remain standing. When the second round began, Trinidad wasted no time in testing Joppy's will. He quickly landed a series of cracking right hands, but Joppy absorbed them without much problem. In fact, Joppy remained the aggressor in round two, circling Trinidad and again landing his jab at will. Most of Joppy's jabs landed flat on Trinidad's nose, which began trickling blood. Trinidad jabbed back, and the boxing match was on. First Joppy circled Trinidad, then vice versa. Joppy was using his quick hands and genuine skills to keep it interesting, but by the end of the round Trinidad was again loading up with big power shots. The Puerto Rican superstar repeatedly fired a crisp one-two or a powerful lead left hook, and each time he threw he landed with incredible accuracy.
The third round was Joppy's best, although it was still a very close round. Trinidad was landing each and every straight right hand he threw, and he chopped at Joppy early and often in round three. Each time Trinidad landed, the ring echoed with the hard crack of his leather gloves on Joppy's jaw. It seemed every punch Trinidad threw was an attempt to end the fight.
But the champion was not going to hand his title over. Joppy combated Tito's open aggression with sheer volume, and it worked. Joppy began establishing his own rhythm, beginning with a constant jab. Trinidad's nose began to bleed even more as Joppy's stick repeatedly found it's target. Unfortunately, Joppy was rarely able to follow-up. Trinidad's defense in round three was brilliant. He did swallow a number of Joppy jabs, but he repeatedly ducked under Joppy's right hand follow-ups. Time and again Joppy would commit to a power punch, only to have Trinidad duck a half-second before impact. Still, Joppy's volume (116 punches thrown in the round) stopped Trinidad from firing back with much frequency. But that was about to change.
The fourth round began quickly, as had the other rounds. Joppy was in Trinidad's face from the opening bell, completely unafraid to jab with the taller fighter or walk into his power range. But Trinidad returned to his right hand in this round, and Joppy was quickly in big trouble. Again catching Joppy coming out of a crouch, Trinidad landed a huge overhand right to the base of Joppy's jaw. He followed with another stinging right, and then another. The second punch hurt Joppy the worst, and he was in full retreat when a chasing Tito detonated a flush left hook on Joppy's mouth.
The punch shook Joppy's entire body, lifting his feet off the canvas. The champion sailed backwards through the air and landed on his tailbone. Joppy's momentum pushed him onto his back, with his feet sailing into the air above him. Joppy climbed the ropes to his feet, took a few steps towards a neutral corner, and again collapsed to his knees. Although seriously hurt, Joppy made it to his feet again and convinced Mercante that he could continue. There was 1:47 left in the round.
Trinidad now looked to close the show. He came at Joppy carefully and landed another big left hook as the champion fell into him and initiated a clinch. Mercante separated the men, but Joppy was able to run out the clock with two more blatant hugs. After one Mercante break, Joppy was pushed back into a neutral corner. Hoping to regain his legs, Joppy illegally held onto the ropes on either side of him. Trinidad wasn't sure if it was a trap, and hesitated before coming in. That pause gave Joppy a few precious seconds to regain his equilibrium, but soon he was holding on for dear life again.
Believe it or not, William Joppy made it out of the fourth round. Not only was he able to move and hold for most of the two-minutes, but he even mounted a mini-rally. Late in the round, Joppy seemed to regain most of his composure and fired out his jab with renewed vigor. Trinidad continued his attack, picking and choosing his the spots in which he would batter Joppy with individual bombs. But Joppy somehow found the determination to survive.
In fact, once the fifth round began, Joppy was again pursuing Trinidad with double and triple-jabs. But Joppy had slowed down a step, and Trinidad repeatedly countered with big right hands and bigger left hooks. Trinidad's economy of punches was amazing. He would let Joppy jab and land a body shot, then perfectly counter with a head-swiveling bomb of his own. Trinidad hammered Joppy with a half-dozen of these gigantic punches in the fifth, but Joppy was still pressing the action. With just under a minute left to go, Joppy missed with a lead right, but followed up nicely with a stringent double left hook, first to the body and then to Trinidad's head. The punches were quick and firm, giving hope that Joppy had enough left to once again rally back.
But a moment after Joppy's assault, Trinidad ended the fight. Tito loaded up with a gigantic right hand and slammed it into Joppy's face. The soon-to-be-ex champion's entire body shook. He was out on his feet. Joppy again began to collapse, but his lifeless body hovered in place for a second too long. Trinidad was able to throw another right hand in this moment, and it caught Joppy as he was headed to the canvas. The additional blow sent Joppy sprawling onto his side. Joppy bravely tried to get up, but only made it half way before his randomly moving legs pushed him into the turnbuckle like he was trying to tackle it. After Joppy crashed into the corner, he fell to the canvas. He again summoned the energy to get up, but once on his feet he wobbled across the ring to another corner, and Mercante halted his count at six. Trinidad KO5.
Simply put, it was a complete destruction. Despite his own confidence, the display had to give Bernard Hopkins plenty to think about. Joppy landed good, solid, clean punches, and Trinidad took all but the first without a blink. At 160 he looks fitter and stronger. He retained the majority of his handspeed while boosting his power to yet another level. Joppy had been down before, but never seriously hurt. This night he was down three times, each knockdown more devastating than the one before it. And Tito is still improving. If we haven't even seen his best yet, Hopkins is in for a rough night.
Trinidad-Joppy capped off a night of fights that looked good on paper, but failed to deliver in the entertainment department.
In the feature attraction, Chris Byrd easily outpointed Maurice Harris in a fight that had drawn major attention from the online community. Harris had boosted his profile with his cocky, yet earnest, protestations that he would defeat Chris Byrd in the ring. Unfortunately, once fight time came around, Harris looked like a typical 18-11 fighter: mediocre.
To his credit, Harris began the fight by grabbing the first three rounds. He and Byrd stood in front of each other feinting for most of the first few rounds, each answering the other with a straight right or left. Harris was taking his sweet time with the crafty Byrd, but scored some effective blows when Byrd showed his Achilles heel: retreating to the ropes. In the early going, Harris was even the bigger puncher, twice nailing Byrd hard enough to make him scream "Wooo!" in appreciation.
But by the fourth round, Harris' offense stopped. It was as though Byrd had hypnotized him with his quirky facial expressions. Now instead of punching, Harris chose to simply stare at Byrd. For most of the middle rounds, Byrd stood right in front of the bigger Harris and did not have to slip any punches. None were being thrown. Harris began breathing heavily in the fourth, and by the fifth he was retreating to the ropes himself and catching Byrd punches in the process.
In fact, the story of the fight was Harris' embarrassing lack of conditioning. In the fourth, Harris' lack of energy made his right hands come across as open handed slaps. In the fifth, the two men engaged in one of the most embarrassing exchanges in heavyweight history as Byrd peppered Harris with a half-dozen pitty-pat shots to the arms and Harris responded with a ridiculous flurry that was even slappier than slap-master Byrd's.
Harris had a mini rally in the sixth round, as he began touching Byrd more often. By touching we mean literally touching. Byrd and Harris engaged in a sparring session that often looked like two guys play fighting for the camera. Byrd's punches rarely have real snap, and Harris was too tired to throw his punches correctly. Still, Byrd did plant his feet at one point and dig a hard left to Harris' body and another across his chin. The cumulative effect of the two punches dropped Harris to a knee. Being knocked down by Chris Byrd is the height of humiliation, and Harris looked like he wanted to run and hide.
Harris was exhausted when the seventh round began, and for most of the rest of the fight he could be seen looking over Byrd's shoulder to the electronic round timer up in the MSG stands. Harris was now easy prey for Byrd, who simply began pecking at him with an endless stream of ineffective punches. Occasionally, Mo would save up enough energy to nail Byrd with a good shot, but Byrd would simply answer with five of his own, negating any points Harris may have scored.
The fight went from boring to excruciating in the late rounds as the two men clinched more and Harris began looking at the clock about as often as the sleepy viewers on the east coast. Byrd just kept throwing and throwing. Even after Harris' corner told him that he needed a knockout, Harris spent the eleventh round clutching and the final round trying to survive.
In fact, if this fight had gone on another 10 seconds, Harris would have been knocked out. Byrd simply began peppering him in the twelfth round and didn't stop. The final 45 seconds had Byrd hitting Harris without any response. Much of the time, Harris looked to be running from Byrd like someone running from a mosquito, but Byrd did hurt Harris a few times in this final effort. By the end, an exhausted and nearly-knocked-out Harris was stumbling around the ring like a doped-up Frankenstein. Referee Wayne Kelly looked ready to jump in a number of times, and probably would have at the very end had there not been only a few seconds remaining. In fact, even Harris was looking at the clock, noticeably glancing up to the scoreboard in between the head-swiveling shots that ended the fight.
Byrd won by scores of 118-109 and 117-110 twice (Boxing Chronicle scored the bout 116-110). Chris Byrd did little to alter his reputation as a light-hitting bore. Before this bout was over, the Madison Square Garden crowd had already begun booing. Because this bout was an IBF eliminator, Byrd now wins the chance to fight David Tua for the mandatory slot. The young Tua might have given Byrd serious problems (think Ike Ibeabuchi). The current version of Tua probably won't (think Jimmy Thunder). As for Harris, his career is probably over. His 18-10 record didn't make him very appealing going into this bout, and his lackluster performance doesn't help matters. Harris is a well-spoken kid, and famous for his spirited gym wars sparring with Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. But he's done as a serious pro contender. Here's hoping he's saved some of his boxing money. We'll see. He had repeatedly offered Byrd a bonus of $100,000 if he won. If Harris actually pays up on that wager, it will suck dry any purse he made this night.
Also on the undercard was the long-awaited rematch between Vernon Forrest and Raul Frank for the IBF welterweight title that Felix Trinidad abandoned so many months ago. Forrest and Frank had previously fought three dull rounds before an accidental headbutt opened a monstrous gash on Frank's head, causing a no-contest to be declared. The rematch wasn't any more exciting.
The first round was actually the most interesting, as Forrest began firing long punches across the distance and Frank landed frequently to Forrest's body. But soon the pace slowed to a crawl, as the two men wrestled, hugged, clinched, and occasionally boxed for 12 painful rounds. Raul Frank gets serious credit for a great chin. He took Forrest's best shots for most of the night without any ill effects, but Forrest didn't exactly look like a world-beater this night. Forrest was frequently outjabbed by Frank, and needed to win the inside fight before he could establish his dominance in the later rounds. By the end, Forrest chalked up a wide unanimous decision, not that anyone cared. The announcement of his new title reign barely drew any response from the anxious crowd. And while it's nice to see Forrest's heavily-protected career finally come to realization with a world title, he's rotted on the vine by waiting and waiting and waiting all these years. Sure Forrest has a much-talked-about win over Shane Mosley back when the two were Olympic hopefuls. But does anyone think that Mosley wouldn't tear this version of Forrest to pieces? Even Six Heads Lewis would give Forrest all he can handle.
The card opened with Christy Martin facing Kathy Collins in a matchup that had long been anticipated, but delivered none of the expected competition. Despite the fact that Collins found Martin incredibly easy to hit, she simply stopped throwing punches for long lapses in each round. The result was a sweep of the first seven rounds by Martin, who was by far the heavier puncher. Collins showed a pretty good jab, going stick to stick with Martin in the early going. But when it came time to follow-up, Collins threw light punches while moving backwards and Martin planted her feet and swung wrecking ball punches upstairs and down. Both ladies worked the body, but Martin was allowed to pace herself and go the distance. In fact, Martin was openly exhausted as early as the sixth, but Collins could never pressed the action. By the late rounds, Martin would take a few big swings and miss. The effort left her needing a few big gulps of air, but Collins could rarely counter and take advantage. We gave Collins the last three rounds, as she began landing more on a tired Christy while making the Coal Miner's Daughter miss badly. But it wasn't enough. One judge generously saw the fight as a draw (95-95), but two others scored the fight for Martin (97-93 and 98-92). Boxing Chronicle scored for Martin 97-93.
In all, it was a spectacular night for Trinidad on an otherwise off night for the sport itself. For the first time in over a decade, the middleweight title is set to be unified. The sport of boxing may have some problems, but the rebirth of the middleweight division coincides nicely with the crowning of a new heavyweight champion. This sport may be on the ropes, but it isn't out yet.
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